To race at the top level of your sport, you have to live it. That can be a challenge during a global pandemic, because like everyone else, you’re staying at home. A lot of professional racers have been getting outdoors on dirt bikes, which is great for physical and mental health as well as social distancing. Still, it isn’t the same as a race bike at a track.
Then again, neither is the #StayAtHomeGP, which was MotoGP’s first-ever virtual grand prix. It took place on March 28, 2020, and featured ten riders from the 2020 MotoGP paddock. Marc Márquez, Francesco “Pecco” Bagnaia, Alex Márquez, Iker Lecuona, Aleix Espargaro, Joan Mir, Miguel Oliveira, Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, and Alex Rins all took center stage as they raced on PS4 from the safety of their homes.
First came a short qualifying round to determine the grid, as you do. At the end of qualifying, Fabio Quartararo emerged as pole-sitter, followed by Bagnaia and Viñales to round out the front row. Then, the race began in earnest.
As you might expect, there was quite a bit of crashing. Getting a feel for your bike can be difficult when you’re actually on your bike, but getting a feel through your controller is a different matter entirely. Luckily, in the video game, it’s not hard to get back into the race after a crash. Since all of us watching this GP at home had the opportunity to watch these racers as they played, seeing Joan Mir still leaning with his body to tell his bike where he wanted it to go put a smile on my face. Once a racer, always a racer.
Also entertaining was the live commentary for the duration of the race from Jack Appleyard, who also guided some post-race interview questions with the grid for this season kickoff race at Mugello. It was also fun to see a small glimpse of these racers just hanging out at home, with Alex Rins’ dog jumping into his lap and other people in the house wandering in and out of frame behind several of the racers. Fabio Quartararo looked a bit like a team manager, and famed motorcycle artist Steve Whyman also noted that Maverick Viñales had one of his paintings hanging on his wall as he played. Chalk that up under ‘things you wouldn’t get out of a normal MotoGP round.’
According to MotoGP, a different roster of racers will take to the virtual track for the next round, sometime in the next few weeks. It’s a definite change, but it seems like a great way to keep everyone’s spirits up, both racers and fans alike.